Whilst walking the streets of London, with half a baguette in one hand and a coffee in the other, I am no more than 10 feet away from someone who tells people you're no more than 10 feet away from a rat. I call them civil servants personally, wandering around with their Blackberry's, donning their shiny suits and slick comb-overs, whilst talking about "social exclusion policy" and all matter of immensely boring crap, which would resonate the brain of any passer by into smoothie.
I had two emails this morning from two separate press agencies who work in the UK, telling me about two things which tie into each other. I have friends and past colleagues at both services, so whilst I should be careful in what I say to avoid discomfort and awkwardness, I shall not do. I shall however, start as I mean to go on, by having a gratuitous rant.
Bad news: MI5, the British Security Service, which looks after domestic affairs which threaten many or all paths to disruption of national security, want to collect and store information on those, and us, who use social networking websites like Facebook, Bebo and other popular websites. Not only will it give them an insight into our lives, whether we are a threat to this, that and the other, in theory it could also harm students' paths into certain careers.
For IT specialists, technologists and computer science engineers, they can go into any industry and still be useful. Regardless of whether it's going to work for a massive, worldwide company like IBM, or whether it's a small high street supermarket - IT is a central part of any industry. Having flags against names, restrictions on people, intelligence where there shouldn't be any intelligence, and vetting behind the scenes, could cause problems.
How many people write stupid things on their Bebo pages? How many of us upload pictures to Facebook which we really wouldn't want our parents to see? Considering for important jobs in the UK, it's the Security Service who get our information, check to see whether we are a security risk or not, and pass that information back to the potential employer so they can make a decision based on that.
Good news: On the other side of the Thames, MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, have been using Facebook as a recruitment tool. Many of course, many will see James Bond being this quintessential role model of the service, you couldn't be more wrong.
The service is looking for the "next generation of spies", as it so delicately put it. Whilst even with my experience, I'm still sceptical of this view; it's probably more accurate than I'm particularly comfortable with. With increasing law enforcement opportunities, expanding technologies and ever growing problems to be solved, maybe MI6 is the perfect employer for a certain few.
So even though the usual cloak-and-dagger "tap on the shoulder" as you walk to one of your lectures on your university campus may be a thing of the past, even one of the most famous intelligence services in the world is getting "down with the kids" and expanding to social networking websites. They do have their own network on Facebook, after all.
"A number of public channels are used to promote job opportunities in the organisation and Facebook is a recent example of this. MI6 runs agents in foreign countries and says it wants its officers to 'reflect the society' they serve."
If I was approached either on campus or over Facebook, I'd probably laugh and tell them to sod off. One of my friends on the other hand...